ISIS: Unesco investigates sale of art for self-financing

Bouchenaki, market stretches to Gulf. Fear for Libya, Yemen

31 October, 20:19

    Mounir Bouchenaki, Manama-based Arab Cebter for World Heritage of Unesco Mounir Bouchenaki, Manama-based Arab Cebter for World Heritage of Unesco

    (ANSAmed) - PAESTUM (SALERNO) - ''We don't have tangible evidence but we know the Islamic State (ISIS) sales archaeological findings to buy weapons and fund terrorist actions'', said Mounir Bouchenaki, a special advisor to Unesco director Irina Bokova and director general of the Manama-based Arab Cebter for World Heritage of the UN organization.

    Only 10 days ago - Bouchenaki told ANSAmed on the sidelines of the 17th edition of the Mediterranean Bourse on Archaeological tourism in Paestum - the director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization ''set up a task force for Iraq and the illegal smuggling of art.

    And together with the command of Carabinieri police for the safeguard of cultural heritage, which has 40 years of experience, French authorities and Interpol, we are trying to work to close the circle and understand who is putting these assets on the market, where they come from and, most of all, where they are aimed''.

    Along with abductions to obtain a ransom and the sale of oil, archaeological pieces stolen from Syria and Iraq also bring revenues to ISIS. ''There is no evidence tying down extremists from the Islamic State but the current work of the task force is identifying the rings and establishing where the money ends up'', stressed Bouchenaki.

    Terrorism and political instability, and the consequential growth of the black market, are plaguing the archaeological heritage of Iraq, Syria, as well as Libya, Yemen and Lebanon, ''the countries worrying us the most right now''.

    Another alarming issue is that the market for illegally smuggled art is growing - not just in Switzerland and Great Britain. ''Today there are buyers with big sums of money who are unfortunately buying these pieces in Gulf countries, especially in the UAE with Abu Dhabi and Dubai'', he said. (ANSAmed)

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